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Lost in Seoul

I just back from Seoul. I love that city. So much energy. I picked up a nice leather briefcase for work and a beautiful Buddhist bell. Met some college students who wanted to practice their English with me. I saw three other white people in the whole city. It was a really great experience. But then I lost Vicky and Jimmy (my Korean hosts). Figuring out the subway back from Seoul was easy. But I got off at the Bus terminal and tried asking what bus to take for Wal Mart. I couldn't communicate. So I walked around outside. I didn't know my address and I forgot the name of our area. So I walked around trying to ask for Wal Mart. After many failed attempts I hailed a taxi and told them I wanted Wal mart. The taxi driver said "Wal Marte." I said "yes Wal Mart." So he took me on the freeway and 10,000 won later I was at Wal Mart. But it was the wrong one. I tried to explain I wanted "the other Wal Mart" but he didn't understand. So he took me to the Juan train station and I asked around
and retraced my route and started over. I went back to the Bupyong station and got another train back to the bus terminal. I walked outside and just walked toward the lights asking if anyone spoke English. I found a twenty something Korean who wanted to help but did not speak English. He spoke Korean and I spoke English. After a lot of gesturing I managed to explain I was looking for a fancy restaurant by my apartment named Soporro. He seemed to understand and took me to a soup restaurant. He asked people on the street if they spoke English and pointed to me. We finally found someone that spoke a little English. I told him I wanted the Wal Mart around the corner from Soporro Japanese Restaurant. I gestured a lot with my hands to indicate it was a big restaurant and said "fancy" a lot. He said, "I get it but it's far away. You need a taxi." So he hailed a taxi and told him to take me to Soporro restaurant by Wal Mart. The taxi driver got on the freeway and it looked like the same route as the first time so I said, "no not that Wal Mart. Other Wal Mart." But he thought he had it right and said, "Wal Mart and Soporro restaurant." So after a lot of failed attempts to explain I ended up at a Chinese restaurant called Soporro which was across from the wrong Wal Mart. So I paid my 8,000 Won and just got out. I walked to the wrong Wal Mart and tried to find someone who understood a little English. I found a young guy and asked if there was another Wal Mart in Incheon. He found a supervisor and was very helpful. He wrote down the address of the other Wal Mart on a piece of cardboard so I could give it to a taxi driver. I really should have got out and went into that Wal Mart the first time. So I hailed another taxi and gave him the piece of cardboard with the address of the other Wal Mart in Korean. 8,000 Won later I was finally around the corner from my apartment at the right Wal Mart. It is now almost 2 AM and what would normally take about an hour on the subway ended up taking over five hours. I am drinking some warm tea and I am treasuring this piece of cardboard. It is going with me wherever I go. I am also going to learn some basic survival Korean and take my phrasebook with me no matter where I go.

So it was an experience. I am glad to be warm. I am just laughing it off.



Adam said…
We had a similar problem last year in Dublin -- except there, everybody spoke English, we had a map, and we had a car. I'd say you're getting along pretty damn well.
JWG said…
Get lost in Seoul, give me a call
010 2799 1975.

I got lost in Shanghai one time. Thought i was done for. Got lost in Bangkok but i knew better. been lost in seoul for some time now

postpran said…
Thanks Jim. we should meet up in Seoul sometime when things settle down with Winter session etc.
Shells Bells said…
Most cabs have numbers you can call if the cabbie doesn't understand where you want to go. I've lived here a me getting around is simple as pie just give it a few weeks and you'll be navigating like a pro!
Chris Vitiello said…
Marcus -- you should really consider just moving in in, like, the camping section of that WalMart.

Keep reporting and can't wait to see pictures -- though your words are so good on their own,

louise said…
This is fascinating. I will be following your adventures. A novel you might enjoy is Heaven Lake by John Dalton. It's set in China, not Korea, but it's about a young American teaching english there, and the adventures he has. It's a great book.
BTW, my ex-husband used to travel to Taipei a lot and told me about similar barber shops. Apparently, at least in Taipei, you can tell if it's a normal barbershop or a "special" barbershop by the color of the stripes on the pole.
This delighted me to read--not because of your misfortune in getting lost and having such a long adventure, but because it was interesting and it reminds me of something that would happen to me--and that has happened to me.

I am enjoying reading of your adventures!

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